As the saying goes, if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em. Following the news last month that Virgin Media customers in the U.K. would soon be able to stream Netflix directly from their cable set-top boxes and search for Netflix content the same way they would search for a television show, Samsung announced today that Netflix will be available to its customers through its Smart Cable Box.
It might seem like the company occasionally described as ”the new television” is about to become a lot more like the old television, but that’s neither fair, nor even true.
As the British roll-out made clear, making Netflix available via cable box doesn’t really change Netflix as an offering. It still requires a separate subscription to access, and offers the same content as any other Watch Instantly account would. What actually changes is the context in which Netflix exists, making it part of the “regular” TV experience as opposed to an external addition that requires an level of additional effort to watch. And why not? As WIRED reporter Roberto Baldwin put it recently, “it’s time we realized that Netflix is the new standard in premium channels.”
Netflix has reportedly been in negotiations with other cable providers, and a report at Bloomberg states that TiVo has found itself an important third party, with the company said to be in favor of adding Netflix as a cable box option so that it can promote TiVo’s new Roamio box, which integrates cable programming with additional internet services.
When contacted for this story, Netflix representatives declined to officially comment, but said that the majority of Netflix viewing in the U.S. happens on televisions through different devices, predominantly game consoles and digital hubs such as Roku boxes or Apple TVs.
“Having the Netflix app on a set-top box is a natural progression,” Netflix CCO Jonathan Fiedland told the New York Times earlier this week. “Our goal is to make it as simple as possible for consumers to enjoy Netflix while cable operators see value, too, because it makes their broadband service more attractive.”
Convincing cable providers that it makes sense to add a Netflix option may not be as easy as it might appear, however. Yes, there’s the obvious future-proofing it gives cable providers — why worry about “cord-cutting” when you’re also offering the alternative? That said, Netflix remains a somewhat unattractive proposition for many providers not only because it risks angering the suppliers of their cable content by cozying up to their (perceived) rivals, but also because Netflix is reportedly demanding that providers use its proprietary Open Connect content delivery network to add Netflix content.
That Netflix will, someday, be as easily accessed on American television sets as DVR recordings, pay-per-view events or even broadcast networks seems like something close to an inevitability, given Netflix’s stated goals. How long it’ll take to happen on a broader scale, however, remains unclear.
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